Racing Insights

Racing Insights, 26th December 2020

Matt here again, on Christmas Day duty, and wishing you all the very best of the day/season.

It's a bumper Boxing Day menu though, understandably, not quite as bulging as usual. No problem for us, of course, as there is more than enough to go at.

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So much to go at is not always a positive, so a little bit of considered whittling is required. Using the card filters and selecting handicaps only, 8-10 runners helps considerably: 41 races down to five!

There is no real standout race from those, but the one with the most exposed form and, therefore, the least guesswork - in theory at least - is probably the 1.28pm from Wetherby, a 2m3f handicap chase on soft ground. Due to rail movements it is actually a 2m4f race, an extra 168 yards added to the advertised distance.

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My first port of call is to see if there's any sort of pace bias and, in this case, the pace blobs tell us that this track/trip/going/field size combination seems pretty fair, with the exception of held up runners who have struggled.

That tempers enthusiasm in Demi Sang based on recent run style history but leaves the rest of the field as credibles.

Instant Expert is next, from which it is clear that the favourite Johnbb is well suited.

Indeed, clicking on the distance block for him shows he was a course and distance (and class and going) winner last time out. As a six-year-old against older, generally more exposed, horses he has more scope to step forward again; and as a prominent to midfield runner he should have no issues with being too far back.

Another last day winner, Mercian Prince, has won on soft but his overall profile (1 from 8, just one further place) is uncompelling, and his three wins in recent years have all been on good ground. He has back class and looks otherwise well suited to conditions but that going concern is not especially factored into odds of 4/1 to my eye.

Time To Get Up is hard to weigh up. He's run well in defeat a few times and this is his second start in a handicap. We can see from the bottom row that Jonjo O'Neill, his trainer, does very well with those running under such a circumstance. He is also in excellent recent form.

The horse himself was second to Monkfish, subsequent Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 winner, beaten 11 lengths. That one had a hurdles mark of 152 when winning the Albert Bartlett meaning 133 is potentially very well in for this fellow. He's easily the most interesting horse in the race.

Ravenhill Road has fallen the last twice, which must surely have dented his confidence. Moreover, a high winning rating of 127 against a today rating of 133 about this relatively exposed nine-year-old means he's not for me.

While Twotwothree has had less goes than many of these, and tries a different combination of trip and going, he doesn't excite me as a win proposition for all that it wouldn't shock if he won.

Demi Sang is capable on his day, but his day is generally on quicker turf and he'll  likely be ridden quietly at the back: as we've seen above, that's not normally the way to prevail here.

Of the trio of outsiders, Mr McGo makes most appeal: he has a good seven-pound conditional making him rating/weight competitive and, except for his most recent race - a clunk - had been in the mix in his previous seven contests.

Verdict

Probably not as competitive as it first appears. Johnbb looks a legit contender and, if it is either 'not today' or 'I don't like getting my head in front' for Time To Get Up, he has a very strong chance of winning again. But that Monkfish formline is outstanding in the context of this race; and the O'Neill runner is entitled to step forward for his second spin after almost a year off.

It's one of those where I'd kind of like to see what happens with the market: if Time To Get Up was strong around 11am he's probably the bet at 5/2 or better. If he drifted towards 4/1, maybe there's something missing.

At the prices, I'd want to be against Mercian Prince, who looks better suited to quicker turf in recent years, though he may get the run of things on the front. From an each way perspective, Twotwothree and Mr McGo are moderately compelling, but this race centres around the Jonjo runner for me.

- Matt

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